No visit to New York is complete without a visit to the North Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. Formerly three working-class and industrial neighborhoods, North Brooklyn now hosts many of New York’s best restaurants, a thriving art scene, and New York’s best shopping and night life. Hipster jokes aside — Girls is filmed here and The Hipster Handbook has its origins in Williamsburg — there’s more to North Brooklyn than normcore and artisanal gin bars. Pack in the highlights in 48 hours with our travel guide to Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.
FRIDAY – DISCOVER WILLIAMSBURG & GREENPOINT
4pm: Oysters and Absinthe at Maison Premiere
Pleasantly removed from the hustle and bustle of the Bedford and North Sixth intersection, a visit to Maison Premiere is a perfectly indulgent way to begin your crawl through Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This high-concept establishment is part French bistro, part rawbar and features a beautiful U-shaped marble bar. Servers are generally decked out in the obligatory vests and old-timey slacks — this is Williamsburg after all — and the menu features a high-end cocktails list, absinthe, and a decent wine selection. Best of all, from 4pm – 7pm Monday through Friday oysters are half-price. The menu boasts over 20 varieties from both the East Coast and the West. Make sure to arrive early to assure a seat!
6:30pm: Check out the Skyline at The Ides
Perched on the eighth floor of the Wythe Hotel is The Ides, a hotel bar with an enormous roofdeck and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. Drinks can be a bit spendy here, but the views will ease the pain. Go for the people-watching and for photo-ops as the sun sets behind the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in the distance. Highly recommended.
8pm: Gastro Overdrive
Williamsburg is one of New York’s top culinary destinations so it’s really hard to go wrong when picking a restaurant. For dinner curate your own meal — we’ll provide suggestions. Critics’ favorites Reynard and The Elm are close to the Ides (in fact the former is on the ground floor of the Wythe hotel). That said, we prefer a few of the less buzzed-about joints. Rye serves up a mean Old Fashioned — pair it with the Long Island Duck Breast, Roasted Organic Chicken, or the popular Rye Meatloaf Sandwich at this cozy speakeasy. Cubana Social‘s slow roasted pork and empanadas are fantastic, especially on weekends to the accompaniment of live Cuban jazz. Allswell is a good choice for seasonal fare in an unpretentious setting and Brooklyn Star has amazing fried chicken and Southern comfort food with a ‘Nawlins twist. Five Leaves has a locally-sourced menu with great soups and burgers, but can get crowded so be prepared to wait. Diner, Marlow & Sons, Shalom Japan and Motorino are solid choices in south Williamsburg, but you may want to take a cab unless you’re prepared to walk. Want something less fussy? Swing by Mable’s for BBQ in a vintage country setting or Radegast Beer Hall for cheap sausages and fries (amazing) if you don’t mind navigating the bros in this spacious beer hall. Need more options, here are more of our favorites.
10 p.m: The Night Bazaar
Take a cab or walk to Greenpoint for the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. Every weekend a former industrial warehouse is transformed into hipster shopping mecca with dozens of local vendors selling everything from T-shirts to artisanal coffee to sound equipment. There’s a covered beer garden where local beers are served and snacks are available if you’re craving dessert. Around 10pm bands take the stage with acts that have included top indie artists like Mac Demarco, The So So Glos, Crystal Stilts and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. (All concerts are free). Play a game of ping-pong, mini golf, or an arcade game while you wait for bands to take the stage.
Midnight: Have a State-of-the-Art Nightcap
Beer nerd alert: Tørst is officially your Mecca. Denmark’s Evil Twin Brewing maestro Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø opened this bar in the Polish district of Greenpoint in 2013 and its been packing in the beer afficionados ever since. They have dozens of brews on tap and a so-called “Flux Capacitor” that makes sure the draughts are served at the perfect temperature. The setting is Scandinavian minimalism at its best, which is currently all the rave in hip Greenpoint (aka Little Scandinavia).
SATURDAY: WILLIAMSBURG & GREENPOINT – THE EXPLORATION CONTINUES
10am: Get a Fussed Over Cup of Coffee
It’s hard to find a bad cup of coffee in the admittedly overly-precious Brooklyn these days. You’re here so why not indulge! We recommend starting your day at Blue Bottle on Berry Street, with the most precious cup o’ joe you’ll ever have:
“We are roasting coffee on a vintage Probat roaster, and serving coffee on a variety of interesting devices: Kyoto-style iced coffee drippers, a brand new La Marzocco espresso machine, a painstakingly restored 1958 Faema Urania lever espresso machine, and perhaps the longest and most theatrical drip bar on the eastern seaboard.”
If you haven’t had coffee from the Oakland-based chain, prepare to be delighted. Ridiculousness aside, Blue’s Bottle coffee will not disappoint.
11am: Smorgasburg on the Waterfront
If the weather is nice, head to Smorgasburg on the Williamsburg waterfront to try food from dozens of Brooklyn’s favorite restaurants. Over seventy vendors participate every Saturday in the warmer months and it’s a great place to take in the view of the East River and Manhattan beyond. Try some food mash-ups while you’re there. Past creations have included the Ramen Burger and the Cronut. More information at smorgasburg.com.
1pm: Do a Little Shopping
Williamsburg is one of the best places in New York City to shop. Where Manhattan is overrun with chains, there are countless boutiques and vintage stores where you can find one-of-a-kind items. Sure, there’s an American Apparel and an Urban Outfitters in Williamsburg too — not to mention the suddenly ubiquitous Brooklyn Industries — but this shouldn’t overshadow the neighborhood’s more unique offerings. Dozens of stores are just south of the Bedford Ave. L train stop, but great shopping can be found throughout the neighborhood as well as to the north in Greenpoint. Walking around and making your own discoveries is easy to do, but here are some of our favorite spots:
Vintage clothing can be found at Monks, Amarcord, Awoke Vintage, and Rabbits in Williamsburg and the iconic Beacon’s Closet (a crowd-pleasing favorite) in Greenpoint. Also, you’ll discover a blend of vintage items and crafts at Artist & Fleas which is a must for anyone visiting North Brooklyn. Try Crossroads Trading for used name-brand clothing.
Women and men alike can shop at the Brooklyn Denim and In God We Trust or hop over to Greenpoint for the tiny but fantastic Alter — the women and men’s stores are across the street from each other on Franklin Avenue.
For record shopping, visit Rough Trade in Williamsburg or Greenpoint favorites Permanent Records, Academy Records and Earwax. Inside the MiniMall at 232 Bedford Ave. (where you’ll find some of the neighborhood’s best shopping) is the book store Spoonbill and Sugartown. Comic fans will enjoy Desert Island. Speaking of the MiniMall, newcomer Shops at 240 Kent has many great stores all under one roof, and without the crowds.
Vintage furniture and houseware shoppers will be in heaven in Williamsburg. Ugly Luggage is our go-to place for antique furniture and house-ware items. Plus, their prices are a steal. RePop has beautiful mid-century modern furniture, but the prices can be steep. Junk has two locations on Driggs Ave. — just blocks away from each other — with over 10,000 square feet of space filled with lamps, sofas, dishes, clothes, and everything vintage you can imagine. Brooklyn Reclamation is worth a visit too.
Strawser & Smith is your one-stop shop for high-end home furnishings: “The building, from the 1920s, features exposed floor joists on the ceiling, raw and polished concrete slab floors, and a well patinated interior brick wall… We see the Industrial Age and Modernism as part of the same aesthetic fabric.” You get the point.
If you need new knives, cast-iron pans, or dish towels, visit Whisk for a much more personal experience than Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Now get that credit card out and go!
You should be. You’ve been packing it in. Drop those bags off. Then, take a nap or have sex. Preferably both.
4:30pm: Happy Hour Beer Crawl
North Brooklyn is filled with places to try craft beer, including two breweries, The Brooklyn Brewery and Dirck the Norseman. On Saturdays, Brooklyn Brewery is open to the public and offers free tours and tastings. It’s an essential stop for beer connoisseurs or those simply interested in the science behind the making and bottling of this iconic Brooklyn beer. From there, head to Dirck the Norseman just a few blocks to the north. (The walk along Wythe is very industrial and hosts some of the neighborhood’s best murals and graffiti art.) Once you arrive at Dirck, we recommend trying their Clifford PL – an American Pale Ale which has a nice blend of malt and hops and a slightly citrusy aftertaste. If you want to sample more, make your way to The Diamond or Brouwerij Lane (they are in the direction of our recommended dinner spot in Greenpoint). They both have extensive beer lists.
7pm: Dinner at Glasserie
We left dinner decisions up to you last night, but tonight we’re going to be bossy and tell you where to go. If you don’t mind walking, head north on Franklin Street and follow it to the very end. Take a right and you’ll find yourself on the last block of Brooklyn, overlooking Newton Creek. Nestled inside a warehouse on this quiet block in Greenpoint is one of the best restaurants in Brooklyn, Glasserie. The menu is Mediterranean and features seasonal produce with a blend of small dishes and larger plates if you’re feeling hungry. The flaky flat bread is essential and pairs well with most of the small plates. Stand out dishes include Lamb and bulghur croquettes, Syrian cheese with pickled beets, and Chicken & snow peas with pistachio & sesame dukkah. (Note that the menu changes daily). You may be in for a bit of a wait — it is Saturday night after all — but once you try the food you’ll be happy that you were patient.
9pm: See Some Music
You’re in the indie music capital of the world — sorry Austin, sorry Portland — so checking out some music is the perfect way to complete your Saturday night. Some of our favorites places to see indie bands include Shea Stadium, Glasslands, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Death by Audio and Knitting Factory. Greenpoint has its own metal club, Saint Vitus, which is just blocks away from Glasserie if you’re into banging your head or droning out to stoner metal with up-and-coming bands. On some Saturdays, Brooklyn Bowl hosts the popular Soul Clap & Dance Off with DJ Jonathan Toubin where hipsters shimmy to classic R&B from the Sixties. If Merle Haggard is more your speed, hear some Honkytonk at Skinny Dennis. Want to dance? Go to Output, Verboten or Cameo for some EDM — and don’t worry — they never spin the cheesy breed of electronica found in Manhattan clubs where all the dudes wear cologne. Bembe is a festive place to work up a sweat listening to Latin music and salsa (generally with live percussion accompanying the DJ). The club is on a moody and scenic block beneath the Williamsburg bridge. It gets crowded, but it’s always a good time. See our Music Calendar for daily picks and schedules.
SUNDAY: A DAY IN BUSHWICK
11:00am: Brunch at Roberta’s
Even if you don’t live in New York, you’ve likely heard the buzz about Roberta’s. The Times calls it “one of the more extraordinary restaurants in the United States.” Anthony Bourdain raved about their food on No Reservations. And then there was that whole naked waitress thing. You can believe the hype, because Roberta’s is fantastic. It’s also insanely busy, which is why we recommend arriving for brunch before the crowds hit at noon. Start with one of their signature pizzas to share. You’re not going to find a better pie anywhere in the city. We like the Bee Sting which contrasts a salty soppressata with the sweetness of honey. From there, try any of their seasonal brunch dishes. The menu is always changing but everything is fresh and you really can’t go wrong.
2pm: Bushwick Gallery Hopping
No visit to North Brooklyn is complete without a little gallery hopping and Bushwick has the strongest gallery presence outside of Manhattan. Brokelyn has a nice overview of some favorites and there’s a great map here to help you navigate your way. If you visit during early summer, don’t miss Bushwick Open Studios. Bushwick Daily does a good job covering highlights if you’re looking for upcoming events and openings.
Other North Brooklyn Favorites
• The City Reliquary Museum – A collection of odd New York-based memorabilia.
• Brooklyn Flea – A great outdoor flea market with dozens of vendors. Sundays on the Williamsburg waterfront from 10-5pm, warmer months only.
• Barcade – Play vintage arcade games while you drink craft beer.
• Brooklyn Bowl – Have a great meal, bowl, and see a show all in one venue. Or bowl for half the price at The Gutter around the corner.
• Mast Brothers Chocolate – Williamsburg’s artisanal chocolate makers.
• Nitehawk Cinema – Drinks and dinner while you catch a flicker.
• Peter Pan – Everyone’s favorite doughnut shop.
• Jefftown – A popular new bar and restaurant strip on the Jefferson stop in Bushwick (the locals hate it when you call it Jefftown).
• OddFellows Ice Cream Co. – Try creative flavors like Chorizo Caramel Swirl and Tobacco Leaf Smoked Chili Huckleberry.
• The Northside Festival – If you’re travelling in June, this is Williamsburg’s version of South by Southwest.
• PS 1 – It’s actually in Long Island City, just due north of Greenpoint, but this MoMA outpost is a fantastic alternative to the overly crowded museums in Manhattan.
Where to Sleep
Lodging can be expensive in New York. Your best bet on a budget is AirBnB or Hotel Jolie. Other lodging choices are McCarren Hotel (which has a saline pool) and our first choice The Wythe Hotel which hosts amazing views and a good bar. In Greenpoint, there’s the chic Box Hotel. It’s on a very industrial block and is a bit out of the way, but offers free shuttle service with vintage 1970′s checker cabs. There’s also a B&B on the Graham Ave. L train stop called the Urban Cowboy — it has a cowboy theme.
• McCarren Hotel & Pool (160 North 12th St. between Bedford Ave. and Berry St.; 718.218.7500; chelseahotels.com)
• The Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave. and North 12th St.; 718.460.8000; wythehotel.com)
• Hotel Jolie (235 Meeker Ave.; 718.625.2100; hotellejolie.com)
• The Box Hotel (77 Box Street; 347.765.2269 theboxhousehotel.com)
• Urban Cowboy B&B (111 Powers Street, urbancowboybnb.com)
The L and G trains connect most of North Brooklyn with service to South Williamsburg and parts of Bushwick on the J/M/Z lines. In Williamsburg, it’s fairly easy to hail a cab on the street, and travelling between North Brooklyn neighborhoods costs from $10-$18. Car services including Metroline (718.388.1111) and Northside (718.387.2222) are also available should you tire of walking. CitiBike is available for those wishing to bike.